Over a third of mid-sized businesses in the UK are unable to recruit apprentices

Over a third of mid-sized businesses in the UK are unable to recruit apprentices

  • One in three mid-sized businesses struggle to hire apprentices due to lack of funding and guidance
  • Ending the skills crisis is the top priority for businesses ahead of a general election
  • Huge regional disparities in apprenticeship hiring 
Over a third of mid-sized businesses in the UK would like to hire apprentices but do not have sufficient resources or guidance to do so, according to new data from accountancy and business advisory firm, BDO.

BDO’s bi-monthly survey of more than 500 mid-sized businesses reveals that almost a third (32%) of respondents want to hire more apprentices but the costs associated are too high, with the same number wanting more guidance on how to go about it. 

The same number of respondents (32%) most want to see support from a future government to resolve staff or skills shortages including reform to the apprenticeship levy. This came as a higher priority than tax breaks and regulatory changes, demonstrating its importance to the businesses that sit at the heart of the UK’s economy. 
Less than one in five respondents claim to regularly hire apprentices through the Apprenticeship Levy, with high costs (32%) and a lack of guidance (32%) cited as the main barriers to doing so. 

Yet desire remains strong amongst businesses – a quarter of respondents said they would increase their hiring habits if they could work more closely with local schools and colleges in order to shape an apprenticeship programme.

Apprenticeship hiring levels vary significantly across the UK’s mid-market. Nearly double the number of respondents in the North West (33%) said they needed support with the skills gap, compared to their counterparts in London. Other areas with a high number of businesses requiring additional funding and guidance to start hiring include the South West (42%) and East Midlands (40%), suggesting there remains some regional imbalance in opportunities to access training programmes. 

Skills shortages remain a challenge for mid-sized businesses across the board, with almost a quarter (24%) citing that they cannot find people with the right skills because of the region they work in. This jumps to almost a third of businesses in the North West (33%) and the North East (31%). 

In addition to regional cold spots, certain industries record significantly lower levels of understanding when it
comes to the process of apprenticeship hiring. Almost two in five (38%) mid-market real estate companies claimed they would hire apprentices if they had more guidance on how to start a programme and 43% of technology and media companies, both high growth areas of the economy.

Richard Austin, partner at BDO commented: 

“As we celebrate National Apprenticeship week, the importance of apprentices to the economic growth of this country is not lost on anyone, least of all the businesses at the heart of our economy. 

“These businesses are responsible for more than 8 million jobs, the equivalent of one in four across the UK and with the right level of targeted support, together we can help these businesses kick start their hiring; boosting the number of high quality opportunities on offer to our younger generations and providing the skills the UK so desperately needs.